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Shiraz and all its facets – tasting various origins and finding its successful food partners



Last night we hosted a talk and tasting on Shiraz and all its facets. La Motte Cellarmaster and Chairman of the SA Shiraz Association, Edmund Terblanche explained various styles of Shiraz at the hand of a tasting while South African authority when it comes to food and wine matching, Katinka van Niekerk, guided guests through a Shiraz and food pairing.

La Motte Cellarmaster Edmund Terblanche

Edmund started with a discussion on the history and background of Shiraz and how it ended up in France, South Africa and Australia.

Explaining the different styles, guests started the tasting with the 2005 Domaine des Martinelles Croze Hermitage, an Old World style French wine with little new oak, a lower alcohol, less pronounced fruit and an elegant character. While this style of wine might be unfamiliar to the South Africa palate, it has the gentle easiness, finesse and freshness of a typical Old World style wine.

Then followed a total opposite style of wine, the New World 2005 Torbreck Run Big from the Barossa Valley with its distinct minty character. This style is opulent with masses of up-front fruit.

The South African example from the same vintage was the 2005 La Motte Shiraz, offering a bit of both worlds. As Edmund explained, the South African wine is a bit like where South Africa lies on the map – somewhere between Australia and Europe. Being a New World wine, the La Motte Shiraz has the sunny fruit but the style tends to be more Old Wordly and less upfront than the Torbreck.

To explain that the varietal differences are not only based on country of origin, Edmund then presented a tasting of 2013 Shiraz wines from different site-specific vineyards representing four different climatic regions in South Africa – Franschhoek, Paarl, Walker Bay and Elim.

And to conclude this interesting comparison, Edmund showed that while origin and terroir play an important role in determining the style of wine, winemaking methods are also important. He explained this at the hand of a tasting of two 2013 Shiraz wines – one matured in new oak with the tannins and oak very prominent at this stage of the wine’s development and one in older barrels which is at the moment more accessible.

Showcasing this popular varietal’s affinity for food, South African authority when it comes to food and wine matching, Katinka van Niekerk, guided guests through a Shiraz and food pairing, matching the current vintage 2010 La Motte Shiraz with various dishes prepared by the Pierneef à La Motte kitchen on the estate.

South African authority on Food and Wine Matching, Katinka van Niekerk

Katinka has charmed guests with her delightful style of presentation while giving thorough information to guide future food matches for Shiraz.

With Shiraz, style is a significant factor in determining how to match the wine with food. Leaner, more austere (some Old World) examples work very well with red meat in almost any form (grilled, stewed, smoked or roasted), while new World Shirazes, packed with generous black and red fruit, are very good with red meat and poultry alike. Roasts of pork, chicken or turkey, especially when accented by a choice condiment, can beautifully play off the fruit in a New World wine.

There are only four categories of food a New World Shiraz should not be paired with:

Curried tomato & bean ragout, cheddar potato gnocchi and parsley oil – not an ideal pairing with Shiraz

  • Fish. Though some salmon and tuna preparations pair well with the lighter French styles of Syrah, a new World example is generally too flamboyant for most seafood recipes and is thrown out of balance by most fish.
  • Hot and fiery recipes. With the New World Shiraz’s high alcohol level, fiery chillies in a dish will increase the perception of alcohol in the wine. The pairing of Chef Chris’ tomato butter curry soup and the 2010 La Motte Shiraz destroyed both wine and food, leaving guests reaching for a whole tank of ice water.
  • Sour foods. Sharp vinegar bases and tart vegetables are tough to pair with new World Shirazes. Guests tasted the unhappy combination of the La Motte with a tomato terrine.
  • Mild cheeses, especially Camembert. Pierneef à La Motte kitchen whipped up some Camembert which is delicious and looks beautiful, but when combined with the wine, left us literally cold. Shiraz pairs well with harder, strong and pungent cheeses.

Well, then, what should a New World Shiraz be paired with?

A New World Shiraz should accompany:

  • Grilled foods (a char-grilled steak or chicken legs, or grilled vegetables such as eggplant or baby marrow)
  • Barbecued and smoked food of any description
  • Thicker and fuller preparations (stews and one-dish meals)
  • Pungent and wild flavours
  • Spices and herbs

Barbequed, glazed Lamb’s sout rib – a lovely pairing with Shiraz

To demonstrate the successful matches, Katinka paired the 2010 La Motte Shiraz with a Barbequed glazed soutrib with caramelised fennel puree, a Saffron steamed venison dumpling with cameline jus, Braised and caramelised fennel (the Vegetarian’s match with Shiraz!) and the surprising combination of Rose Geranium Turkish delight with crystalised ginger – a match made in heaven!

Katinka concluded: “Shiraz is a very easy red to pair with food! No wonder most food and wine pairers say that Shiraz is, without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind. But, oh, of course, granted: the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with barbecued spare ribs!”


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